“The task of theology is to help the churches tell and share their stories truthfully”
“Witham has managed the impossible: to tell a coherent story about the diverse and often eccentric Gifford Lectures from their beginning in 1888 to the present. Telling this story involves not only reading the lectures, but also knowing the social, political and intellectual background of the various lecturers”
“Parish clergy and seminarians today seem content to have ministry numbered among the “helping professions. ” After all, most professing Christians, from the liberals to the fundamentalists, remain practical atheists. They think the church is sustained by the services it provides or the amount of fellowship and good feeling in the congregation. This form of sentimentality has become the most detrimental corruption of the church and the ministry”.
“I did not become an ethicist because my primary interest was social change or particular moral “issues.” Rather, I became an ethicist because I was (and am) interested in the intellectual issues associated with the truthfulness of Christian discourse.”
“Rather, it is a mistake to follow the way the report invites us to think about human sexuality because it, like a great deal of Protestant and secular thought, assumes that the basis for any ethics of sex involves an interpretation of “wholesome interpersonal relations.” The dominant assumption has been that the evaluation of different kinds of sexual expressions should center on whether they are or are not expressive of love. On the contrary, the ethics of sex must begin with political considerations, because ethically the issue of the proper form of sexual activity raises the most profound issues about the nature and form of political community. I am not denying that sex obviously has to do with interpersonal matters, but I am asserting that we do not even know what we need to say about the personal level until we have some sense of the political context necessary for the ordering of sexual activity”.
“I am genuinely unsure how my mind has changed over the 22 years I have been teaching and writing.”
“Yoder may well help us to use the remaining resources of that tradition to help Christians rediscover ways to serve our non-Christian brothers and sisters by being unwavering in our commitment to the politics of Jesus”.
Why should ordinary Christians care about such seemingly recondite matters as how to articulate the immanent being of the Trinity? There aren’t any “ordinary” Christians; there are saints, a few of whom are appointed to the task of thinking hard about and trying to articulate the common faith of the church. We don’t usually need to use formal theological language and concepts in the everyday life of the church in prayer, preaching and service. But like any other important human activity, faith has to achieve a measure of conceptual clarity if it is to understand and express itself, and part of that process is the development of abstract concepts like Trinity, incarnation and substance. What’s important is that we don’t treat such concepts as if they were improvements on the ordinary ways in which the saints express the faith; they are simply shorthand terms, a tool kit which helps us keep certain crucial aspects of the gospel alive in the mind and worship of the church. Theology and theological abstractions matter because the gospel matters, because the gospel concerns truth, and because living in and from the truth involves the discipleship of reason.